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Organization's grants to fund four health care projects

From treating depression to aiding drivers after shoulder surgery, a partnership between research universities and health care companies is helping researchers track down answers.

The integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia, known as iTHRIV, recently awarded $200,000 in grants to four research projects that will look into treatments for cancer, depression, rotator cuff surgery and driving and a painful disorder that makes swallowing difficult.

The organization, a partnership between the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic and Inova Health System, distributes grants to turn basic research findings in biology and medicine into hands-on applications.

The grants are part of $23 million in funding the organization receives from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The most recent grants were awarded to researchers and engineers at UVa, Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic.

One grant will pay for research to identify which cancer cells will respond to which chemotherapy. This project is working to develop a device to identify cancer cells using machine learning principles and electrophysiology.

The team is led by Nathan Swami, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UVa, Todd Bauer, a professor of surgery at UVa, and Eva Schmelz, an associate professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at Virginia Tech.

Another grant will fund investigation into the use of focused ultrasound to treat depression, led by Sarah Clinton, an associate professor in the School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech, and Wynn Legon, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at UVa Health.

The organization is also funding studies of when rotator cuff surgery patients may safely resume driving vehicles. There are more than 450,000 rotator cuff repairs every year. Peter Apel, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and a Carilion Clinic orthopedic surgeon, and Miguel Perez, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, lead this team.

The fourth grant will fund research into a painful esophagus inflammation disorder known as eosinophilic esophagitis, which causes pain and difficulty swallowing. The condition affects both children and adults.

The research is led by Irving Allen, an associate professor at Virginia Tech in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and Emily McGowan, a physician at the UVa School of Medicine.

iTHRIV funds research programs that combine clinical biomedical research and data scientists to use data to improve health.

“Health care solutions are hidden in underutilized data,” iTHRIV officials state on the organization’s website. “Our unified approach [is to] integrate data and data analytics to accelerate and streamline scientific workflows for clinical trials, innovative therapeutic advancements, and the creation of more personalized approaches to health care.”


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